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Recycled water for drinking water is possible if key research and knowledge gaps are addressed

The State Water Resources Control Board announced in a report late last week that they consider it feasible to develop and adopt regulations for using recycled water as drinking water with the caveat that certain research and key knowledge gaps are addressed. The statement follows a draft report issued on Sept. 8 and followed by a 45-day public comment period. The report to the Legislature on the feasibility of developing uniform water recycling criteria for direct potable reuse was due by December 31, 2016.

The report is a key step toward fulfilling Governor Jerry Brown’s objective of more sustainable water resources. The final report is the foundation for establishing one of the new and reliable sources of additional drinking water for California. However, adoption of the new regulations and plans will not take place until additional research and identified knowledge gaps are addressed related to specific health issues.

As part of the California Water Action Plan, recycled water is part of the multi-faceted effort to increase long-term resilience as well as to diversify California’s water supplies. Two earlier senate bills – SB 918 (Pavley, 2010) and SB 322 (Hueso, 2013) – had directed the State Water Board to research the feasibility of creating regulations for direct water reuse. Thus far, no other state has developed regulations for using recycled water as drinking water.

The earlier legislation created an Expert Panel and Advisory Group to assist the State Water Board’s Division of Drinking Water staff in investigating the feasibility of creating such regulations. The Division of Drinking Water has reviewed the comments from the 45-day public comment period and presented them on Dec. 6 to the State Water Board. No major changes were made to the report.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) was initially the state agency that was required to investigate and report to the Legislature on the feasibility of developing uniform water recycling criteria for direct potable reuse by December 31, 2016. Both senate bills pre-dated the transfer of CDPH Drinking Water Program into the State Water Board on July 1, 2014. However, the mandates to complete this task become the responsibility of State Water Board’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW) responsibility upon the transfer of the state’s drinking water program to the State Water Board.

Additional information regarding the report and the recommendations can be found at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/drinking_water/certlic/drinkingwater/rw_dpr_criteria.shtml

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